Riviera Maya: Celebrating the turn of an era

Chichén Itzá’s famous temple

The Maya believe the higher your elevation, the closer you are to the gods.

Standing atop the Maya’s second tallest temple in Cobá, I could see their point: I truly did feel closer to the gods — if the sensation that you are standing on the brink of death-by-falling qualifies.

Whether you subscribe to the theory that the culmination of the Mayan calendar this December signals the end of the world or the beginning of a new era, all the debate and apprehension may have piqued your interest in the Maya culture.

Mine was, and that’s how I ended up in Mexico’s Riviera Maya in pursuit of all things Maya.

Maya Calendar Confusion

“For Mayas, the obsession was time and space,” said Pedro, a guide Read more of this post

Bahamas Fishing Adventure

The ‘Reluctant Angler’ hits Bahamian waters

“Most people go a lifetime without catching a fish like that,” Capt. Mike Russell told me aboard the Chubasca III.

It surprised me, the rush of pride I felt there afloat in the 6,000-foot deep waters outside of Nassau Harbour, mugging for the camera with the 20-

Me and my mahi

pound mahi-mahi I had just reeled in. A Facebook moment to be sure.I had, up to that same moment, considered the sport of fishing, to paraphrase Mark Twain’s golfing analogy, as a good boat ride spoiled. The next day, after pulling in four bonefish and a small Nassau grouper off the sand flats in the Bahamas’ Out Islands, I started to “get” the whole attraction. Read more of this post

Eating Riviera Maya

To once and for all satisfy my ever-crave for Mexican food autentica: Es posible?

La Casona in the historic Maya town of Valladolid – the hostess in traditional Maya garb

I was salivating to give it a try as I made my recent plans for the Riviera Maya, a slice of Yucatan coastline where seafood and rich Maya tradition stir up an intriguing cultural stew.

Who knew that my obsession with Mexican cuisine is backed by no less than the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)?

In 2010, UNESCO added Traditional Mexican Cuisine to its List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and in April 2012 it received the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences’ (AAHS) International Star Diamond Award.

Feeling entirely justified, then, in pursuing my gourmand pleasures, I revisited the area where I had my first taste of real-deal Mexican food nearly 30 years ago. That included my initiation into the wonderful world of ceviche Read more of this post

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

To toast one of my favorite days of the year, an excerpt from a column I wrote for the Sanibel-Captiva Islander on March 17, 1987:

“”There is something about the Irish – they always seem to cut through directly to life,” writes Anne Morrow Lindbergh. “There is an unguarded spot somewhere, where one can touch them. They are closer to their hearts.”
I have a wee bit of Irish in me, I am told. I believe the actual proportion is 2/365. For only one day a year do I really feel it. And then I feel it bad the next day.
During my college days in St. Paul – an Irish island in a Scandinavian sea -St. Patrick’s Day meant drinking green beer at 7 o’clock in the morning. You could tell the true Irishmen not necessarily by who was closer to their hearts, but by who was closer to the keg. “Tap o’ the morning,” they would greet you.
This early morning greening was a priming ritual for the great, second-to-none (no, not even New York’s) St. Patrick’s Day parade downtown St. Paul. Aye, it was a lovely sight, all that green blossoming amidst snow in various shades of decay. Every Irish bar from the Ford Bridge to the High Bridge, from Gannon’s to Gallivan’s overflowed with bobbing green derbies perched upon red mugs sucking upon green mugs. It makes Wil’s [an erstwhile Sanibel bar] at Spring Break look like a meeting of the board of directors.
There is something about the Irish…. They’d still be hoisting Harps long after I had taken a view-of-the-floor seat at Duffy’s around about sunset.
The whole objective behind St. Patrick’s Day, as far as I’ve been able to discern, is to make a fool of oneself. To the Irish, making a fool of oneself is no cause for shame. It is sport, high art, duty, blarney – the knife with which they “cut through directly to life,” as Lindbergh put it. It is, perhaps, that “unguarded spot” bared and broadcast. It becomes a contest to see who can prove the best at tomfoolery.
Who, this year, can top Pat Ryan jumping on the royal parade float to kiss the current St. Patrick’s Day queen? Or Molly O’Connor’s “My Name is McNamara” concert on the steps of the cathedral as evening Mass let out?
And so, on that one day a year when the Irish in me pops out like the cork from a leprechaun’s Jameson bottle, I feel compelled to prove the green in me. Wearing ‘Kiss Me I’m Irish’ buttons and jigging down Periwinkle [Way, Sanibel’s main road] isn’t quite enough…..”
I won’t be jigging down Periwinkle today, but will be partying at Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar & Grille. And hopefully won’t win any fool contests. Get your green on and celebrate!

New Zealand Island-Hopping

Chapters of adventure in Northland

A Maori woman told us the island’s name means “beginning of a book” in the language of her tribe.

At 11 letters, the New Zealand isle of Urupukapuka could practically qualify as a book on its length alone. Coincidental that book-writing guy Zane Grey once stayed on the island?

Locals around the Bay of Islands, at “the top of the North Island” as they say, tell that the famed American cowboy scribe took to writing about fishing here on the other side of the world from the wild, wild west.

Kicking back on Urupukapuka Island.

“He holds the record for the number of marlin caught in New Zealand in one day,” our guide told us on our Bay of Islands dolphin tour boat when it landed for a little terra firma break last week during my first-time NZ adventure. That record has never been broken, mainly because laws have since restricted the number of marlin taken at one time. Read more of this post